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A guide to marketing on a budget

Learn how you can market your business with little to no funding whilst generating the maximum marketing return possible
Marc Duke

/ Last updated on 30th October 2017

A series of dice lined up next to each other on a black background

A while back, the CEO of a company I was working with called me into a meeting room and asked me for help. ‘I have a board meeting next week, and the numbers don’t stack up. We have to review the marketing budget!’ he demanded. We did. (Exciting stuff, buy me a coffee and I’ll bore you with the details – I promise!) The VP of sales then chipped in ‘CEO (not his actual name), you can’t go with those numbers. Marc has not had a chance to work out how much budget he needs to do effective marketing’. Well, no need, as we had already agreed on the numbers, but here are the magic numbers for effective marketing 0, 5 and 100. There, easy, job done!

Related: The art of not spending

0. Bootstrap marketing

In startup land, we bootstrap and blag. If it can be done for nothing i.e. we should do it ‘0’. Startup marketing is not for everyone – if you are used to a nice chunky budget which has an obligatory 5% increase when the annual review happens, think carefully my friend. Enjoy your visit to startup land, but I think you are in the wrong place! Corporate marketing is great, you can do amazing things with big budgets, but you can also do a lot of very smart things for very little. Every penny counts, yes it does, and if the activity does not increase revenue quickly (or as quickly as is possible depending on the length of the buying cycle) – don’t do it! I am also a firm believer in ‘if you pay peanuts you get monkeys’ and you have to get value for money. I have heard that the alternative word for an entrepreneur is a hustler i.e. you have to try and get the best deal you can and get the max from what you have.

5. Time to get noisy

You have to speculate to accumulate; while doing everything on a shoestring can get you quite far, there comes a time when you have to put your hand in your pocket. But what sort of numbers are we talking about? Depends of course on your market, but take 5, i.e. five per cent of your planned turnover should be your crude rule of thumb for the total marketing budget. Sometimes it might be larger than this, but if you can work off this as a starting point, everything else (and I mean everything) marketing wise should stem from this number. You can then plan everything from here. Yes, that’s right – all your activity, PR, events, direct marketing, advertising, collateral creation, sponsorship, SEO, etc. should lead you back to your number. If it doesn’t, look very carefully at the activity or price and ask yourself – will this generate leads fast? If the answer is no – put it on your wish list.

100. What my ROI?

There is a lot of talk about ROI (return on investment) and in marketing measurement country (more on that in a separate blog) there are lots of C abbreviations: CPL (cost per lead), CPC (cost per click) CPM (cost per mention), but my advice is to look for the overall return on how much you have spent and how much it really generates. As an example for you, we have generated five pieces of online coverage which in turn it generates 100 hits to the website. We then get five enquiries, and one converts to a paying customer. You now have all the numbers needed to work out the return on your investment (it’s the getting them that is the tricky bit). Ideally, look to double your spend on revenue i.e. you spend 10,000 to get 20,000. Don’t think that metrics don’t matter, they matter even more in startup land as your life (or your company’s life) depends on it. Fail to do proper budgeting, and you might as well play the lottery (talking of which I wonder what numbers I should choose…)

Related: How to promote your business

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